Family Picks: Paint the town, ride the rails, or punt, pass and kick!

Family Picks: Paint the town, ride the rails, or punt, pass and kick!

Monticello is where it's at this weekend, with the annual Monticello Celebration and Railroad Days at the Monticello Railroad Museum. And with a near-perfect weekend forecast, it's your last chance to take a boat ride around Crystal Lake in Urbana. Or try out your football skills at Punt, Pass and Kick. Plus a free concert, Savoy Orchard Days and more!

Savoy Orchard Days: 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 10 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dana Colbert Park, 203 E. Church St., Savoy

Carnival rides, arts and crafts, fire safety house, firetruck show and tell, face-painting, kid crafts, relay races, antique cars and more. A 5K run/walk is set for 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

Music by the Tons 'o' Fun band (8 p.m. Friday), the Crazy Johnny Band (3 to 5 p.m. Saturday) Captain Rat and the Blind Rivets (8 p.m. Saturday) and the Boat Drunks (2 to 5 p.m. Sunday).

For information: Call 359-5894 or visit

Main Street Monticello: 9th annual Monticello Celebration, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, Courthouse Square, Monticello.

You can "Paint the Town" again this year, compete in the photography contest, and join in on the ever popular Pet Parade and Contest beginning at 10 a.m. The Kids Activity area will feature a bounce house, slide, obstacle course and giant train, along with other games and make-it-take-it activities for the kids.

Other highlights: arts and crafts vendors (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), the Stilt Man and Balloon Guy, and entertainment with the Fuedin' Hillbillys at 8 p.m.

For information: Call 762-9318 or visit

Railroad Days: 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Monticello Railway Museum, 992 Iron Horse Place (Exit 166 off I-72), Monticello. Admission charge.

While you're in Monticello, consider a ride the vintage passenger and freight trains on the former Illinois Central and Illinois Terminal tracks. Special events include a newly restored steam locomotive, to be dedicated at noon Saturday; motorcar rides; a Norfolk Southern exhibit car, a Wabash Railroad office car, an Illinois Central locomotive, Kiddie Powered pedal trains, custom model trains, and a locomotive horn exhibit. Operation Lifesaver will also be on hand.

Helpful tips: Rides will be available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 2 to 12, and free for ages 2 and under. Tickets are good for unlimited rides. Concessions will also be available.

For information: Call 877-762-9100 or 972-0078, or visit

Take a boat ride! Noon to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Lake House in Crystal Lake Park, Urbana. Boat rental fee.

We took paddle boat rides over Labor Day weekend, and the kids really enjoyed it. A half-hour is probably plenty, but pay for the full hour if you want to take your time and let the older kids paddle. The lake is small, but we saw ducks, raced with our friends' boat and pretended the logs were alligators.

One word of advice: It was extremely busy when we went, so check to make sure boats are available.

You can rent a paddleboat, canoe or rowboat starting at $6 to $8 for a half-hour. Canoes hold up to two adults and one child, rowboats hold up to six adults. Paddleboats have four seats, but kids 3 and under can sit on laps for free. Cash and checks only. Concessions are available.

For information: Call 328-1069 (weather) or 367-1544 (boat rental) or visit

Punt, Pass and Kick! Noon to 2:30 Saturday, Dodds Park Soccer Complex, West Bradley Ave., Champaign. Free.

Kids ages 8 to 15 can show off their football skills and compete for a chance to advance all the way to  Soldier Field. Participants compete for distance and accuracy in all three categories. The overall top scorer in each division advances to the Sectional Competition, usually held in October. Sectional winners then go to Soldier Field for the Team Championships.

Divisions are separated by age and gender. Participants will need a copy of their birth certificate or proof of age to register. No advance registration is required.

For information:

Sing Along with Mr. Stephens: 10:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Phillips Recreation Center, 505 W. Stoughton, U. Free.

Kids in preschool-grade 2 and their families are invited for a free half-hour sing-a-long with musician and vocalist Mr. Stephens, who has been singing with kids at area elementary schools and the Urbana Free Library for years. You'll sing songs about the ABC’s, numbers and chicken feet—easy for young children to learn on the spot!

For information: Visit

Arrr, matey! Talk Like a Pirate Day, 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Urbana Free Library, 210 W. Green St.
Urbana. Free.

Explore your inner pirate with the crew of the Jolly Urbana Free. You can see just how sea-worthy you are with a pirate personality quiz , see how smart you are at the temporary tattoo parlor, improve your vocabulary and refresh your knowledge of pirate lore. There will be some walking of the plank, swabbing of the decks, and hunting of the treasure. Peg legs and eye patches are optional.

For information: Call 367-4069 or visit

Free Family Concert: Community Center for the Arts Open House, 4 to 5 p.m. Sunday,  202 S. Broadway Ave., Urbana. Free.

Wear your goggles or a fun hat to enjoy live music in an "underwater" setting featuring art work by students at the center. Popular and classical music will be performed by professional music faculty and student musicians at the center.

For information: Call 384-5150 or visit


Check the Are We There Yet? blog every Friday for upcoming family friendly events, pulled from our News-Gazette online calendar, e3 magazine and other sources.

Do you have an item you'd like to submit? Email me at, or use the N-G online calendar. Look for it on the upper right-hand side of the News-Gazette home page,

Photos: Taylor Helenthel of Monticello sits for a caricature by Illustrator Dan Wild of Champaign at the 2008 Monticello Celebration, top. Below, kids enjoy the bounce house in the Kids Activity  Area. News-Gazette file photos by Vanda Bidwell.

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